Health Care Service Corporation is undertaking the largest service and product expansion in the company's history ahead of Medicare Advantage open enrollment.
The insurer, which offers plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, is adding MA plans to 90 new counties for the 2022 plan year. The new markets will reach 1.1 million beneficiaries, HCSC said.
Nathan Linsley, senior vice president of government programs at HCSC, told Fierce Healthcare expanding MA is a significant business opportunity that also aligns well with its mission.
"It's an incredibly important business and growth opportunity for any large health insurer," Linsley said.
One of the key focuses of the expansion, HCSC said, is to grow the number of options available to Medicare beneficiaries in rural and underserved areas. Linsley said regional Blues affiliates like HCSC can penetrate markets that may be overlooked by big national plans because of their community ties.
Some plan options, for example, will have $0 premiums, and others may include extended benefits not available in traditional Medicare plans such as dental or vision coverage.
"We looked at markets we had a good chance to win in," Linsley said. "Seniors in those markets benefit from additional plan options."
The insurer looked closely at the existing provider relationships in its commercial book when considering markets to enter. To bolster the planned expansion, HCSC also intends to grow its network, adding 19,000 physicians and 2,800 hospitals and health facilities across the five states it serves.
All of the updates are pending regulatory approval.
MA has been a hot market across the industry for some time, as people age into Medicare at greater rates. It's a key growth target for large health plans across the board.
Linsley said that's likely to continue.
"I think it’s full speed ahead," he said. "It’s hard to envision the set of circumstances that would cause a reversal in some of the trends."
"I don’t see the growth in this market abating anytime soon," he said.